Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida met with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Saturday in a long-sought effort to smooth tense relations between the region's two biggest economies. 

Kishida is paying a visit to China from Friday to Sunday, the first official visit from a Japanese foreign minister in over four years. 

Earlier Saturday, Kishida met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. 

Wang said he was ready to listen to Kishida on how to improve relations. He alluded to the countries' competing territorial claims in the East China Sea, stressing that ties must be based on "respect for history, adherence to commitment, and on cooperation rather than confrontation." 

The reasons that China-Japan relations have gone through twists and turns in recent years are best known by Japan, China’s official Xinhua news agency reported Wang as saying.

Kishida reaffirmed that China and Japan are partners rather than threats to each other and is ready to join China in expanding exchanges and cooperation across the board, Xinhua reported. 

The two diplomats last held talks in Beijing in November 2014 on the sidelines of an international conference.

Japan and China have three main disputes involving the East China Sea: over the Senkaku, or Diaoyu, Islands; their respective air defence identification zones; and gas field development in disputed areas.

Historical tensions from the Japanese occupation of parts of China from the 1930s and World War II also continue to impact Sino-Japanese relations. The occupation and the war came to an end after Japan surrendered to the Allied forces in 1945.

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